▲ Visitors to Home Springs enjoy a vista across the organic tea fields while sipping tea harvested from these very bushes. Couples are invited to profess their love in the caves, an ancient practice going back to China. Photo by Kim Gyong Ho
Many years ago Park Young Soon made a promise to love, and to serve the larger society, and she is keeping that promise in a unique way here in Jeju.
In 2005 she purchased 60,000 pyong (49 acres) of land covered with forest to build an organic “Green Tea Garden for Global Leaders.” To prepare the soil with organic fertilizer she had this vast property dug as deep as one meter—no small feat in Jeju’s rocky soil! To the workers’ dismay, the digging uncovered large caves. But she instead—in her positive approach to life—had an inspiration: make cafés out of the caves!
Home Springs has been awarded organic certification, and visitors can sip fragrant and smooth organic green tea in unique cave cafés, amidst bright green rows of tea stretching over long slopes. What seemed misfortune has been turned into art. Fountains sparkle within natural rock formations. Walkways through the garden and over the pond capture the imagination with unusual names like Pure Stepping and Love Way.
Couples are invited to make a vow of eternal love in the cave café, and heart-shaped plaques, inscribed with these vows, hang on the wall of an underground walk through a lava tube into Eve Hall. Here in this large cave restaurant, one notices other intriguing symbols, like “9000 Before Christ” or “Teaing is a worship to me.” Visitors may wonder what’s behind all this. It feels like a work of love, not merely for profit.
Indeed it is. This ritual of promising love in a cave traces back to a legend in China, meaning a match made in heaven where a couple share a common purpose throughout their lives, deeply committed to each other. But it also stems from the vow of eternal love Park Young Soon and her husband made in 1969, one day before their wedding, a vow to live a happily married life together until the last moment and die on the same day.
▲ Home Springs Tea Garden owner Park Young Soon is all smiles while welcoming visitors to her unique cave café. Photos by Kim Gyong Ho
Since well before their marriage, her husband had been a mentor to her. After many years studying pharmacy, she told him she wanted to run a pharmacy. He asked why. She answered, to make money, to which he replied: she needed a better reason than that. Korea had given her so much support in her education, he suggested it was time to give back to society and contribute to world peace, that she must do something for the larger purpose of life. With total respect for him, she adopted this as her purpose.
She continued her study, expanding beyond Western medicine to alternative approaches, and earned a PhD in pharmacy and physiology. She wrote a thick book on how herbs help different diseases. She lectured pharmacists — who at that time prescribed treatment for people — to learn a full range of healthcare approaches so they could direct people to the best treatment for their particular condition. She offered a 16-day intern program for pharmacists of such intensive study they could sleep only 3 hours/day.
Upon completion, many wanted to study more and formed a study group, which eventually gave birth in 1991 to Onnuri Pharmacy, the first chain pharmacy in Korea. It became very successful, which she believes was due to its foundation in a right philosophy: an attitude of service and a wide range of knowledge from which to direct people to the best treatment. Her continued research showed many diseases stem from poor circulation. This increased her interest in the amazing health benefits of Catechin, which strengthens and dilates blood vessels and is most abundant in green tea.
In 2004 her husband died suddenly. But Park Young Soon had a life-long practice of always finding something to be thankful for, no matter what happens. So she took this misfortune as an opportunity to keep her vow with her husband and to further her work with the health benefits of green tea. To keep her promise she wanted him close to her, so she moved to Jeju, started Home Springs Tea Garden and placed his tomb by her home on top of the hill.
A remarkable woman full of vitality and creativity, her contribution extends beyond this. She is developing and promoting green tea products, planning to build a tea museum, and runs a foundation to fund digging wells in Africa so more may have good drinking water. She teaches and is a mentor at Sook Myung Women’s University. One of her frequent sayings is: “The most important thing is not what we possess but how we live.” These are not just words for Park Young Soon. It’s her promise.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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